Bruce S. Bennett, M.A. (Canterbury), Ph.D. (Cambridge), firstname.lastname@example.org
ORCID number: https://orcid.org/0000-0003-2753-6756
Some of the following include links to online versions of papers, either at
external archives or on this site.
Bruce S. Bennett, "Women Chiefs and Pre-colonial Tswana Patriarchy",
Botswana Notes and Records, vol. 51 (2019), pp. 38–48.[online at UB journals site ⓘ,
at Researchgate ⓘ,
and on this site ⓘ]
It has usually been held that in traditional Tswana society women could not be dikgosi (chiefs) in their own right, though they could be regents. However, the historical record indicates that although it was not common, women could in some circumstances be dikgosi. Indeed, one of the traditional morafe (chiefdom or polity) founders (Mohurutshe/Lehurutshe) is said to have been a woman. Female chiefs seem to have constructed themselves as 'social males', which helped resolve the problems posed by agnatic succession but which may have increased the tendency to erase the memory of them. Comparisons with other Sotho-Tswana societies can be helpful in analysing the issue.
- Bruce S. Bennett and Moletlanyi Tshipa, "History, Causation, and the Many-Worlds
Interpretation of Quantum Mechanics", Journal of the Philosophy of History,
Advance Articles (16 Sept. 2019), https://brill.com/view/journals/jph/aop/article-10.1163-18722636-12341427.xml, https://doi.org/10.1163/18722636-12341427.
The Many-Worlds Interpretation (MWI) is a theory in physics which proposes that,
rather than quantum-level events being resolved randomly as according to the
Copenhagen Interpretation, the universe constantly divides into different versions or
worlds. All physically possible worlds occur, though some outcomes are more likely
than others, and therefore all possible histories exist. This paper explores some implications
of this for history, especially concerning causation. Unlike counterfactuals,
which concern different starting conditions, MWI concerns different outcomes of the
same starting conditions. It is argued that analysis of causation needs to take into account
the divergence of outcomes and the possibility that we inhabit a less probable
world. Another implication of MWI is convergent history: for any given world there will
be similar worlds which are the result of different pasts which are, however, more or
less probable. MWI can assist in thinking about historical causation and indicates the
importance of probabilistic causation.
- Bruce S. Bennett, "Intercalation in the Traditional Setswana Calendar",
Botswana Notes and Records, vol. 50, 2018, pp. 18–31.
[online at UB journals site ⓘ;
at Researchgate ⓘ and at this site ⓘ];
Precolonial Southern African farming societies used lunisolar calendars. The details have largely been lost since these calendars were abandoned in favour of the Gregorian calendar. This article seeks to investigate possible reconstructions of the Setswana calendar, especially in terms of intercalation. It is suggested that month-names may be analysed as 'observation' and 'comment' types, with observation names providing seasonal markers. It is concluded that more study is necessary but methods of intercalation probably lay between case-by-case month-naming and explicit intercalation. Stellar observations were important but it is unclear how they related to the lunisolar calendar.
- Bruce S. Bennett, "Omphalos, miracles, and Occam's razor",
BOLESWA Journal of Theology, Religion and Philosophy, vol. 5 no. 1 (2018), pp. 174–187.
[online at UB journals site
at Researchgate ⓘ,
and on this site ⓘ]
Philip Gosse's Omphalos (1857), which attempted to reconcile Genesis with science by proposing that the pre-Adamite stage of the world existed only as a Platonic idea, has usually been criticized as violating Occam's razor and being unfalsifiable. It is argued here that this is faulty, because Gosse makes different assumptions about the data to be explained. The theory was rejected by Christians not because of logical problems but because of its theological meaninglessness. In this it differs from miracles, which also involve the introduction of extra data.
- Bruce Bennett, "Amateur Historical Writing in Botswana: Issues and Examples",
BOLESWA Journal of Theology, Religion
and Philosophy, vol. 4, no. 2 (Dec. 2014) pp. 68–88. [online at this site ⓘ
and at Researchgate ⓘ]
The discipline of history is more open than most to amateurs. This paper summarizes
the contested definitions of what constitutes "professional" or "real" history,
and then examines two amateur historians in Botswana, Albert G. T. K. Malikongwa and
Gasebalwe Seretse. Both are engagé but both are honest and meticulous, and
their work has considerable value. It is concluded, firstly, that amateurs play
an important role in African history in particular, and secondly, that issues
about different types of history become less significant when history is seen
as a collective enterprise comparable to science.
- Bruce S. Bennett,
"The Black Swan and the Owl of Minerva:
Nassim Nicholas Taleb and the Historians",
Historia: Journal of the Historical Association of South Africa,
vol. 59 no. 2, November 2014, pp. 369–87. [online at SciELO SA site; at Historia archiveⓘ;
& at this siteⓘ]
In The Black Swan, Nassim Nicholas Taleb considers the importance in human
affairs of "Black Swan" events of low probability but high impact. In the process he
argues, in a confrontational manner, that historians' causal narratives are mainly
invalid on a number of grounds but especially because the unpredictability of Black
Swan (or other) events implies that subsequent narratives connecting events are
merely "good-sounding stories". This article analyses Taleb's arguments against
historical explanation and concludes that they are largely unsatisfactory. It
questions Taleb's link between explanation and prediction in the context of history,
arguing that Taleb's own concept of randomness as insufficient information implies
greater knowledge after an event. However Taleb offers insights which can be of
value to historians, and a more irenical relationship would be desirable.
- Bruce S. Bennett & Alison Wallis,
"Khama v. Ratshosa revisited: The Privy Council ruling of 1931 on house-burning",
Botswana Notes and Records, vol. 44 (2012). [online at Researchgate ⓘ
& this site ⓘ]
Abstract: In 1926 the regent of the Bangwato, Tshekedi Khama, was wounded in an attack by the brothers Simon and Obeditse Ratshosa. In retaliation he ordered their houses burnt down, and they were subsequently imprisoned. The Ratshosas brought a civil action against Tshekedi for the loss of their property, and won in the highest Bechuanaland Protectorate court, but Tshekedi successfully appealed to the Privy Council. It is usually stated in historical secondary sources that the Privy Council upheld Tshekedi as acting under customary law. However, a careful reading of the judgment shows that the Privy Council ruled on the basis that the Magistrate had no jurisdiction. Furthermore, the Privy Council found that if the Magistrate had had jurisdiction, Tshekedi would have lost his case, since although he acted within customary law, that custom was contrary to good governance.
- Bruce S. Bennett & Maitseo M. M. Bolaane,
"The BaKhurutshe Anglicans of Tonota and religious persecution in the Bechuanaland Protectorate",
International Journal of African Historical Studies,
vol. 43 no. 2 (2010) pp. 319–340. [online at UB research repository]
- Bruce S. Bennett, "Mogotse's Goats and Other Cases before the Gaberones Magistrate in 1908",
Botswana Notes and Records,
vol. 40 (2008) pp. 21–34. [online at Researchgate ⓘ;
also this site ⓘ]
This article is based on an exhaustive review of the criminal cases in a single colonial court in the
Bechuanaland Protectorate in 1908. The laws and their implementation reflect in many cases the imposition
of the new colonial order, although their impact was still limited for many Africans. The magistrates,who were also
the colonial administrators, followed an investigative style in their proceedings.
- Bruce S. Bennett, "Ecumenical Readings of Bessie Head",
in The Life and Work of Bessie Head: A Celebration of the
Seventieth Anniversary of her Birth
(proceedings of July 2007 symposium)
(eds) Mary S. Lederer, Seatholo M. Tumedi, Leloba S. Molema,
and M. J. Daymond, (Gaborone: Pentagon Publishers, 2008) pp. 72–84. [online: archived on Researchgate ⓘ
and this site ⓘ]
This was written for a July 2007 Symposium on the life and work of Bessie Head,
usually regarded as Botswana's greatest writer. It considers Bessie Head's
religious vision as a universal one, beyond any simple definition.
- Bruce S. Bennett, "The declaration of the Protectorate" and "The 1891 Proclamations",
in Forty Years On: Essays in Celebration of Botswana's Forty Years
of Independence, edited by T Mgadla and Brian T Mokopakgosi
(Gaborone: Department of Information Services, 2008).
- Bruce S. Bennett, "Ancient Egypt, Missionaries and
Christianity in Southern Africa" in
Ancient Egypt in Africa
(Encounters with Ancient Egypt series)
edited by David O'Connor and Andrew Reid, (London: UCL Press,
2003) pp. 107–120.
A consideration of some of the ways in which ancient Egypt
informed the world view of missionaries in Southern Africa,
and the lasting effects on local Christian and secular thinking. Ancient Egypt was,
for the missionaries, part of an ancient Near Eastern world which loomed large in
their thoughts; centred upon the Old Testament, and supplemented by classical authors.
- Bruce S. Bennett, "Some historical background on minorities in Botswana",
in Minorities in the Millennium: Perspectives from Botswana
ed. Isaac N. Mazonde (Gaborone: Lightbooks, 2002), pp. 5–15. [online at Researchgate ⓘ
and this site ⓘ]
[Based on paper presented to
the International Conference on Challenging Minority Deference and Tribal
Citizenship in Botswana, Gaborone, May 2000, International Centre for
Contemporary Cultural Research, Manchester & University of Botswana.]
- Bruce S. Bennett, "
Dead bodies on display: El Negro in cross-cultural perspective",
Pula: Botswana Journal of African Studies
vol. 16 no. 1 (2002) pp. 8-13. [online at African e-journals project]
This derived from a conference prompted by the repatriation to Botswana of a human
body ("El Negro") which had been on display in Spain. In this paper I considered
some of the different meanings which the display of bodies has had in different societies,
attempting to draw some distinctions.
- Bruce Bennett, "The contested history of Modimo",
BOLESWA Occasional Papers in Theology and Religion (Vol. 1, No. 9, 2002),
(eds) J.B.R. Gaie, L.S. Nthoi and J. Stiebert
[paper presented to the Boleswa (Botswana-Lesotho-Swaziland) conference on Theology and Religious Studies, Gaborone, February 2001]. (ISSN: 1818-3816.) [online: archived on Researchgate ⓘ
and this site ⓘ]
- Bruce S. Bennett,
"Banister v. Thompson and Afterwards: The Church
of England and the Deceased Wife's Sister's Marriage Act",
Journal of Ecclesiastical History, October 1998.
- Bruce S. Bennett, "
'Suppose a Black Man Tells a Story': the Dialogues of John
Mackenzie the Missionary and Sekgoma Kgari the King and Rainmaker",
Pula: Botswana Journal of African Studies, Vol. 11 No. 1 (1997)
(Essays in Honour of L.D. Ngcongco).
[scanned PDF of published version online at African e-journals project;
also text PDF of draft on this site ⓘ
and on Researchgate ⓘ]
Abstract: This is a study of two tremendous voices* in conflict.
One, that of John Mackenzie, was the voice of missionary Christianity and western culture; the other,
that of King Sekgoma II of the Bangwato, the voice of African traditional belief and civilization. Mackenzie, while residing in the Bangwato capital in the
1860s, became involved in a struggle between the traditionalist Sekgoma and his Christian son Khama. Although Mackenzie and Sekgoma profoundly disagreed with
each other, they were able to engage each others' intellects in a series of subtle encounters. These encounters are of particular interest since Mackenzie was
an unusually acute observer, while Sekgoma was an expert practitioner of the traditional religion, widely famed as a rainmaker, a highly intelligent and subtle
exponent of his traditions. [*An allusion to the title of the Festschrift, That Tremendous Voice, a reference to the unforgettable voice of Prof. Leonard Ngcongco.]
- Bruce S. Bennett, "Slow Cooking: Some European historical parallels for the adaptation of Christianity in Africa", in Theology Cooked in an African Pot (eds) Klaus Fiedler, Paul Gundani, Hilary Mijoga, (Zomba: Association of Theological Institutions in Southern and Central Africa, 1998) pp. 120–141. (ISBN-13: 978-9990816655 ISBN-10: 9990816654.) Based on paper presented to the 7th ATISCA conference, Mbabane, Swaziland, 1996.
[online: archived on this site ⓘ and on Researchgate ⓘ]
- Bruce S. Bennett, "The Church of England and the law of divorce since 1857:
Marriage discipline, ecclesiastical law, and the Establishment",
The Journal of Ecclesiastical History, vol. 45 no. 4 (Oct 1994)